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The four-year-olds receive a 10lbs weight-for-age allowance in races like this and that is very hard to get away from. When you are looking at lower-grade horses, 10lbs make a huge difference. For that reason, I am going for the Joseph O’Brien-trained SCHOLASTIC. He was third at Fairyhouse behind Jeff Kidder and then runner-up behind Her Indoors at Cheltenham earlier this month. Keep an eye on the market for Gain De Cause trained by Tony Martin.
The Champion Novice Hurdle is an ordinary affair with Willie Mullins having a couple of entries. Paul Townend rides Blue Lord and he was in the process of finishing a distant second to Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, before coming down at the last.
The track will suit him, but it is interesting that Willie’s other runner, ECHOES IN RAIN, is the mount of Patrick Mullins. She won very well at Fairyhouse earlier in the month and will handle the quicker ground at Punchestown. Patrick Mullins is trying to win the amateur championship, and this could be one for him to edge back ahead in the standings against Jamie Codd.
CHAMPAGNE GOLD was strongly fancied for the County Hurdle on the back of a very good second at the Dublin Racing Festival. Rachael Blackmore is booked to ride, and she will surely be keen to get among the winners at Punchestown after what has been an amazing season for her.
I am not sure if it was just Cheltenham, but CHACUN POUR SOI looked a different horse to the one we saw winning at the Dublin Racing Festival. Allaho revelled at Cheltenham and especially at the 2m 4f trip the Ryanair Chase provided. It really seemed to bring out the best in him. This is a different challenge again now he drops back to 2m and it will be fascinating to see how he goes.
The faster they go, the better it will suit Nube Negra and he could be the surprise package at a track that will really suit him for the Dan Skelton team. Harry Skelton was crowned Champion UK Jumps jockey last week and the brothers have had a magnificent season.
I’m sticking with Chacun Pour Soi to bounce back.
This is a very valuable 2m bumper so there are a lots of unknowns in it, but leading Irish amateur Derek O’Connor is an interesting jockey booking for SPRINGWELL BAY for Margaret Mullins. He is related to Dedigout and the dam, Winning Counsel, won over 3m. The trainer clearly means business by booking O’Connor to ride him.
Just the four runners go to post for the Champion Novices Chase and it’s a mouth-watering clash between Monkfish and Envoi Allen.
Monkfish looked the real deal when winning at the Dublin Racing Festival before Cheltenham and may have him marked down as a future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. He looked below par at Cheltenham though, so I’m siding with ENVOI ALLEN who blotted his copybook at the Festival when falling for the first time and losing his unbeaten record.
Rachael Blackmore rides him for the first time now and that is not the perfect scenario. The owners were hoping Davy Russell would be back from injury having missed the ride at Cheltenham as Davy knows him so well. In a small field, Envoi Allen will be Monkfish’s shadow and can do him for speed on the run to the line on this quicker ground. If it rains and the ground changes, Monkfish could well be a different proposition.
Enda Bolger is a master of the ‘banks’ races and when he teams up with Derek O’Connor it’s time to pay attention. YOUCANNOTBESERIOUS was second in this race when it was last run 24 months ago to stablemate Blue Templar, but can go one better this year, despite not having raced since then.
TYRE KICKER represents Irish racing royalty and is owned by Janet Williamson, wife of former top jockey Norman Williamson. Harry Swan – son of another former top jockey Charlie Swan takes the ride and this could be a real family affair in the finale.
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